Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Late Autumn Light

Turner's father was a magician called the Great Girevole, a name the old man had not, as he would sometimes tell it, conjured out of thin air, but that he had once seen decorating a record player on a trip to Rome. Reflecting upon the resonance between his name and that of an Italian brand of turntable, he had settled upon his moniker.

Turner hated it whenever his father suited up as the Great Girevole. Always at the most inopportune times, his father would don his cape and toreador pants and, maybe, decide to pick him up from school--a sweep of his white gloved hand as he stepped out of the car, a shower of cards raining forth, or a nylon bouquet, or a length of knotted handkerchiefs--completely oblivious to the guffaws and snickering of Turner's fellow schoolmates. The man at these moments, was in his own world, inhabiting completely what he would proclaim (his eyes widening, his voice growing low and urgent) the Plain of Mystical Illusion. It became Turner's job to wear the old man's shame for him.

But soon enough, the young man decided it was his duty in life to debunk all of his father's miracles. Pay no attention, he would whisper to his friends, it was only a bit of fishing line. It was only the linking of tiny magnets. It was only a crummy sleight of hand and some careful distraction...

Then one day, after the old man was dead and buried and, along with him, the Great Girevole name, Turner fell asleep in his backyard. A cool, beatific sleep as he had never experienced before in his life. He could tell the sun was burning his eyelids, but still his whole body was relaxed, breathing deeply and hovering someplace between dream and reality. And when he opened his eyes again--after how long, he could not say--he found that he had turned completely invisible. Translucent as a sheet of ice. It lasted for only a few seconds, but he was sure, in the haze of waking, that it was real: his body had ceased to exist.

He ran back into the house and poured himself a glass of water and drank it down, reminding himself that he was being ridiculous. Such things couldn't happen. Such things were the realm of lunatics like his father, a sorry pretence for putting on a cape, a top hat, and gloves, and pretending things were more spectacular than they really were.

Some months later, after Turner had forgotten the invisibility episode, he fell into a second trance, this time at his desk. Again the calm, angelic sleep. Again the slow waking resplendence. But this time, when he opened his eyes, he was all there. He couldn't see through himself. No, this time, he was hovering above his chair by about a foot an a half. He was levitating. He was watching himself lying there on a bed of nothing above his desk.

This too lasted only a number of seconds. Then he came crashing back to the floor in disbelief, almost toppling his chair over.

For the remaining years of his life, Turner tried everything he could to recreate these two miraculous moments. He gave himself migraines, suffered an ulcer and a hernia from the strain. He joined a Transcendental Mediation group, he went on a pilgrimage to India. He sought insight from books: from the biographies of medieval monks to Zen instructional manuals. Eventually, he even thought about getting out his father's old costume, trying it on for size. But, after a hungry, pathetic search through his basement and numerous disintegrating storage boxes, he settled on the notion that the old man must have been buried in it. Standing vigil beside the grave, Turner found himself bawling out the name Girevole over and over again in delirious wonder. His eyes sparkled with tears. He was amazed and awed to find that the closed casket had been the old man's final trick.

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